Every generation thinks it’s unique.
I feel my generation is. We experienced the assassination of President John Kennedy, the Vietnam War, Woodstock, the first man on the moon and the rise and fall of disco.
And one more thing. We’re not litterbugs.
This past weekend, my wife and I were at a stop light. A young teenage girl sat in the passenger’s seat in the car stopped next to us. Suddenly, she rolled down the window and tossed out the paper wrapping on her straw. It was a small thing, but it really irritated me.
The other evening, we were taking a walk near our house. Along the road I noticed empty beer cans and bottles, plastic water bottles and a bag of garbage from Dunkin’ Donuts tossed by a passing motorist.
What’s with people?
I credit my intolerance for litteriing to a highly successful “Keep America Beautiful” advertising campaign conducted by a non-profit group with the same name during the 1960s and 1970s. It was a cause championed by Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Johnson.
“Don’t be a litterbug… every litter bit hurts,” was the slogan. Remember the 1971 TV commercial with Chief Iron Eyes Cody? The Native American had a tear coming down his cheek as he surveyed the littered and polluted American countryside.
Yes, there were strict, anti-littering laws – particularly if you were caught throwing something out of a moving car on a roadway. There used to be signs along the highways, warning of fines for littering.
In fact, it was a littering violation that got folk singer Arlo Guthrie in hot water and served as the basis of his memorable anti-Vietnam War song, “Alice’s Restaurant.”
Back then, I don’t remember any bottle deposits, although I’m sure there were some.
The bottom line is that our generation didn’t have to be bribed with cash incentives. We were educated with the idea that littering was not to be tolerated.
Lately, that idea seems to be fading. Nearly every roadway you see these days is littered with garbage, worse than I can remember. I know there are still fines in place for littering, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a sign on a highway warning against the offense.
Not everyone these days, though, is a litterbug.
Service clubs, non-profit groups and other clean-minded folks have organized road clean-up crews, or started “Adopt-a-Highway” efforts to pick things up.
When my son was in Boy Scouts, his troop participated in several pickup efforts on local roadways. Also, whenever they camped out, the patrol leaders made it a point to have all the Scouts police the grounds, telling the boys to make it cleaner than they found it.
The justice system has also gotten on board, using trustworthy county jail inmates on weekends armed with trash bags to scour local roadsides to remove the unsightly clutter.
I make it a point whenever I go trout fishing to bring along a wicker creel on my shoulder. I often filling it up with empty worm containers, plastic bottles and other garbage.
There are some rays of hope, but not enough is being done. We owe it to ourselves and future generations to keep American clean and beautiful.
Every tossed paper straw wrapper and gum wrapper, plastic water bottle, empty beer can, bag of fast food garbage hurts this country.
It always has, and always will.